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Funding for two CoRE projects

Two University of Otago projects have been successful in the latest Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE) funding round. They will receive a combined $69 million over a seven-year period beginning July 2021: the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies ($36,750,000) and Coastal People: Southern Skies ($32,250,000)

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) Professor Richard Blaikie says the funding is a significant show of support for two national research centres that will benefit local and global knowledge

“We are extremely grateful to the TEC [Tertiary Education Commission] for this important funding. The Dodd Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum Technologies – initially funded as a CoRE in 2014 –  will continue its work in world-class physical sciences research, while our Coastal People: Southern Skies project will investigate ways to strengthen coastal communities in the Pacific as they deal with the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate.”

International rankings

The University of Otago has placed at 184th in the 2020 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. This confirms Otago’s place as one of the top two universities in New Zealand and among the top one per cent of universities internationally

QS has ranked four Otago subject areas in the world’s top 50 (up from two in 2019). They are: sports-related subjects (13th); dentistry (33rd); anatomy and physiology (45th); and classics and ancient history (47th). A further 10 subjects have been ranked in the 51–100 band, and 11 in the 101–200 band. QS has also ranked the Otago Business School’s Online Master of Business Administration as number 10 in the world, up three from last year

The University has maintained its position in the 301–400 band of the AWRU (Shanghai) rankings and in the 201–250 band in the Times Higher rankings.

Impact rankings

The University of Otago has been ranked 23rd in the 2020 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings

The rankings measure how more than 800 international universities are performing against – and contributing to – the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), established in 2015.  

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says the results reflect the University’s ongoing dedication to sustainable teaching, research and operations

“We were the first New Zealand university to sign the international SDG accord in 2018, at which time we pledged to contribute to sustainability, not only around our campuses and the country, but also around the world.”

HRC funding success

Otago researchers were awarded a total of  $26,557,602 in the Health Research Council’s June funding round.

Two significant programmes were supported. Infectious diseases expert Professor Michael Baker (Public Health, Wellington) received almost $5 million for a programme called SYMBIOTIC (Syndemic Management of the Biology and Treatment of Infections and Chronic conditions) to investigate the connection between infectious diseases and long-term conditions to improve health and equity in New Zealand. Otago’s Wellington-based housing and health research programme, He Kāinga Oranga, received just under $5 million to continue research to maximise the health and well-being gains from housing.

Researchers from across the University’s Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington campuses also received funding for projects including antimicrobial resistance, abdominal aortic aneurism, Alzheimer’s disease, health inequities, heart disease, ketamine therapy for neurotic disorders, inflammatory responses following viral infection, and the hormonal regulation of maternal behaviour.

A further $4.3 million was received by Otago in the HRC’s new Health Delivery Research Investment round. This will support research in areas including partnerships between DHBs and PHOs; access to medicines; and the potential for CT scans in the treatments and diagnosis of heart attack patients.

Sophia Charter launched

The University together with the Crestani family have launched The Sophia Charter, following the tragic death of Sophia Crestani at a student party in North Dunedin in 2019.

This is a shared commitment by Dunedin stakeholders, including the University, Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, Otago Property Investors Association, the Dunedin City Council and OUSA. Its aim is to enhance the safety and well-being of the student community in North Dunedin, within a fun, vibrant, safe and secure environment, where residents take responsibility for themselves, each other and the wider community.

Emeritus professors

The University Council has awarded the status of Emeritus Professor to: Professor Barbara Brookes (History); Professor John Broughton (Oral Diagnostic and Surgical Sciences, Preventive and Social Medicine); Professor Jennie Connor (Preventive and Social Medicine); Professor Grant Gillett (Bioethics Centre); Professor Pat Langhorne (Physics); Professor Paul Roth (Law); Professor Warren Tate (Biochemistry); Professor Andre van Rij (Surgical Sciences).

Queen’s Birthday Honours

Otago alumni and staff who received Queen’s Birthday Honours included:

DNZM: Dr Karen Olive Poutasi, CNZM, for services to education and the State

CNZM: Professor John Norman Nacey, for services to health and education; Mr George Ngaei, ONZM, for services to health and the Pacific community.

ONZM: Dr Daryle Elizabeth Anne Deering, for services to nursing; Professor Alec Joseph Ekeroma, for services to health and the Pacific community; Dr Garry Vernon Forgeson, for services to oncology; Professor Ian David Lambie, for services to clinical psychology; Dr Brian Lindsay Turner, for services to literature and poetry.

MNZM: Ms Carol Bartle, for services to health; Mr David Michael Benton, for services to addiction support and treatment; Mrs Patricia Gwenieth Broad, QSM, for services to gymnastics; Mr John McGregor Buchanan, for services to music; Ms Sharon Anne Kearney, for services to physiotherapy and netball; Dr Alison Margaret Keeling, for services to gerontology; Dr Kevin Bartley Knight, JP, for services to education; Dr Priscilla Muriel McQueen, for services as a poet; Dr Janet Catherine Turnbull, for services to health.

MNZM (Honorary Member): Dr Johan Hellemans, for services to triathlon

QSM: Ms Gillian Clare Bishop, for services to conservation; Mr Trevor John McGlinchey, for services to Māori and the community; Mr Malcolm Alan Walker, for services to sport and education.


Colin GavaghanProfessor Colin Gavaghan (New Zealand Law Foundation Chair in Emerging Technologies) has been appointed to the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand

Associate Professor Robert Aitken (Marketing) has been elected president of the Australia and New Zealand Marketing Academy (ANZMAC). He has also been elected chairman of Consumer NZ

Diana SarfatiUniversity of Otago, Wellington cancer epidemiologist and public health researcher, Professor Diana Sarfati has been confirmed as the chief executive of the government’s Cancer Control Agency

Helen NicholsonProfessor Helen Nicholson will step aside from her position as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement) to take up the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic from January 2021. Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) Professor Tony Ballantyne will take up the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (External Engagement)

Robin gauldPro-Vice-Chancellor (Commerce) Professor Robin Gauld takes over the presidency of the Association of Asia-Pacific Business Schools (AAPBS) in November 2020.

Faculty of Law professional practice fellow Allie Cunninghame has been appointed as a Coroner, with her warrant taking effect on 30 March 2020.

Katharina RuckstuhlDr Katharina Ruckstuhl (Otago Business School) has been appointed to the international research board of the Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID)

Awards and Achievements

The University’s 2020 Distinguished Research Medal has been awarded to Professor David Murdoch (Dean, University of Otago, Christchurch). Professor Murdoch is also one of only three independent international experts invited to advise the Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine development effort. The University’s 2020 Research Group Award has been won by the Christchurch Heart Institute.

The Rowheath Trust Award and Carl Smith Medal have been jointly awarded to Dr Louise Bicknell (Pathology) and Associate Professor Anne-Marie Jackson (Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science). Associate Professor Jackson has also received a national award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching from Ako Aotearoa, Kaupapa Māori category.

Early Career Awards for Distinction in Research have been received by: Dr Htin Lin Aung (Microbiology and Immunology); Dr Rebecca Kinaston (Anatomy); Dr Khoon Lim (Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine); Dr Rachel Purcell (Surgery); Dr Stefanie Zollmann (Computer Science).

Tim WoodfieldAssociate Professor Tim Woodfield (Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine, Christchurch) has received the Australasian Society for Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Award for research excellence.

Associate Professor Anita Gibbs, (Social and Community Work and Sociology, Gender Studies and Criminology) and Professor Michael Baker (Public Health, Wellington) have  received Critic and Conscience of Society Awards from the Gama Foundation.  

Rathan SubramaniamDean of the Otago Medical School Professor Rathan Subramaniam, has been made an inaugural Fellow of the Association of University Radiologists (AUR).

Professor Sarah Hook and Dr Allan Gamble (Pharmacy) have won Otago Innovation’s Proof of Concept Grant competition for 2020 with their  novel approach to combatting antibiotic resistance in farm animals. They will use the $100,000 prize to make chemically-modified antibiotics – known as prodrugs – which only activate in the presence of infection.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Wellington) and Professor Stuart Young (School of Performing Arts) have received 2020 Scholar Awards from Fulbright New Zealand.

Eight Otago graduates have won Fulbright New Zealand awards: Tom Devine, Emily Gordon, Ngarangi Haerewa, Anežka Hoskin, Laura Mackay, Alice Marsh, Nathaniel Otley and Hamish Prince.

Dr Carolina Loch and Dr May Mei (Dentistry) have won international emerging leader awards from the International Association for Dental Research.

Leanne Te Karu (Pharmacy) has won the Community or Primary Healthcare Pharmacist of the Year Award at the inaugural New Zealand Primary Healthcare Awards, He Tohu Mauri Ora.

Professor Mark Stringer, (Paediatrics and Child Health, Wellington) has received the Farquharson Award from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

English and Linguistics honorary fellow Dr John Hale has received the Milton Society of America’s honoured scholar award for his “notable contribution to Milton Scholarship”.

Professor Etienne Nel (Geography) received the 2020 Distinguished New Zealand Geographer Award and Medal for his sustained contribution to Geography and development

Faculty of Law Dean Professor Jessica Palmer has won the Institute of Directors’ Otago Southland Branch Emerging Director Award for 2020

PhD candidates Holly Still (Geology) and Taylor Hamlin (Zoology, Maths and Statistics) have received $20,000 doctoral scholarships from Antarctica New Zealand

Otago’s Peer Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) programme has been awarded a Heroes Award for its “exceptional quality of learning support care” during the COVID-19 lockdown. The award was made by the Higher Education Research and Development Society Australasia (HERDSA) New Zealand branch.

Microbiology and Immunology assistant research fellow Tom Devine has won the Gordon Watson Scholarship from New York’s Columbia University enabling him to study the implications of a global pandemic on indigenous self-determination and autonomy

Dr Haneen Alayan has been awarded the 2020 International College of Dentists (ICD) Young Dentists Volunteer Grant.


Dr Lindsay Brown MNZM was a member of the University Council for 16 years and was Chancellor from 2004–2008, having previously served as Pro-Chancellor. He was awarded an honorary LLD degree by the University in 2008.

Emeritus Professor Margaret Loutit CBE was appointed to a Personal Chair in Microbiology in 1981. In a distinguished career at Otago which spanned 40 years, she was instrumental in establishing the Research and Development Office, and was a gifted and highly respected teacher, researcher and administrator.

Emeritus Professor Patrick Molloy FRCS, FRACS was instrumental in establishing the South Island’s first cardiac surgery unit ¬in Dunedin in 1973. A staunch advocate of the unit, he led the surgery team for two decades and pioneered cardiac surgery on small babies.